Bakhtin's Carnivalesque

Bakhtin’s Carnivalesque

Bakhtin in Rabelais and his World explores ‘folk-humor’ or carnivalesque, a unique speech-genre that happens across various cultural sites, particularly in the carnival itself. A carnival refers to a moment where everything is permitted, except arguably violence. This occurs between the life and art border and represents a life that is shaped according to a play’s pattern. This form of performance is marked by grotesqueness and excess displays (Bakhtin, 1998). However, the communal performance has no boundaries between the audience and performers. It promotes a situation where diverse voices interact and are heard, enabling genuine dialogue and breaking down conventions.

The Carnival’s Value

Through the carnival, there is an opportunity for developing a novel order of things and new perspective through an indication of the relative nature off all that is in existence. It has a particular wisdom that allows the creation of a substitute social space that has attributes of abundance, equality, and freedom (Bakhtin, 1998). During carnival, ranks that dominate in the medieval society are abolished and all people are considered to be equal. Carnival creates intense feelings of unity and immanence. People break from dominant ideologies and there is creation of an environment where new emergence and birth are possible against sterile dominant norms. People who were separated initially are able to interact and express themselves freely, and there is connection between various aspects of the society.

Potential Danger

            Irrespective of the immense benefits of carnival, there are potential dangers. Carnival is potentially dangerous in that there is keen emphasis on the body and basic needs, and the senses and sensual with counterposed orders of the will (Bakhtin, 1998).The abstract and spiritual are lowered to a material level. Therefore, there is recognition of embodiment as opposed to the dominant traditions. Carnival involves sacrilegious practices where there is blasphemy, ungodliness, and parodies and profanity on sacred things.




Bakhtin, M. (1998).Carnival and the Carnivalesque.Cultural theory and popular culture: A            reader, 250.


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